so, you want to be a writer? (a conversation with myself)

5 June 2009

I sometimes feel that is a loaded question, “So, you want to be a writer?”  It’s like saying “So, what are you really going to do with your life while you pretend to be a writer?”  The whole, “how are you going to support yourself/your family?” issue.  I get it.

Being a writer is challenging — just like being any other sort of artist.  People who think they’re going to break out with a top selling novel and make millions are sort of delusional.  I’m glad they’ve got goals and are aiming high, but man, they need to be prepared that it probably won’t happen.  I mean, it’s not something you really tell a small child when they proclaim they want to be a writer when they grow up.  You pat them on the head and cheer them a long.  But for any one considering this as a career in their adulthood needs to know the risks.

So with that being said, knowing that breaking into the writing scene isn’t easy, why the hell do I want to be a writer?  Furthermore, the question I’m sure my mother is thinking, why am I going to spend money earning a degree in writing — creative writing at that, as opposed to technical writing which seems to be more stable when it comes to marketability.  Well, I’m going to answer it with the simplist, most unimaginative answer a child could give, because.  Because I want to, because I can, because I’m not half bad, because, because, because.  I’m just doing it.  Or at least, I’m going to try.

However, I can definitely say at this current stage I am not prepared for MFA level writing.  Not necessarily because I don’t have the skill, but I’m not afraid to admit that I need to work a bit more before I get back into it.  I haven’t written seriously or published anything since college.  I took an evening writing workshop offered through the university here, and that was the last time I wrote anything creative.  Having minimal writing experience outside of college (just that course and my summer working for a magazine), and not really doing much in the writing community for the past two years did not help my application or portfolio.

Dani’s been a big help, and asset, to me lately in my quest to become a writer/get back into seriously writing.  She herself is planning on applying to an MFA program soon and has basically been my personal writing and application coach through this whole process.  We’ve been discussing programs together, gone to readings, she’s even looked through my applications, essays and portfolio.  I definitely feel lucky, and am very grateful, for all the help she’s been giving me.

So beyond my amazing friend Dani helping me out, I’m also making some major steps in getting myself ready for a program.  This summer I will be in a 10 week course offered by Stanford, taught by a former Stegner Fellow.  I’m also going to retake the workshop here on campus with Dani, and attend a summer writers’ conference here as well.  So it’s looking like this could be a summer of writing for me.  And while I already feel slightly exhausted just thinking about it, I’m also getting a rush of excitement.  If I’m serious about writing, this will be a good step for me.  For someone who likes to talk and dream big, to do something concrete, to make an actual step towards one of those dreams… well, this is just huge.  And it feels great!  (Let’s just see how I feel after writing from now until the end of August…)

  • That’s so awesome hun. And it’s great to see that you’re actually takes the steps you feel necessary before diving into an MFA program rather than going for it and potentially not doing as well as you’d hoped.

    I’m jealous of that drive you have. I want to be a creative writer, but I never know where to begin! I’m always so lost, even after taking courses on writing. =/

    • Well Dani’s helped a lot. Typically I just dream and talk big… and things just sort of fizzle…. so taking these steps feels great! I’m also nervous. I love writing so much, I’m just afraid that I won’t be as good as I thought I would be… or that I’ll get burnt out. I think the fear of failure is a big thing.

      Having friends support me has truly been amazing. I wanted to pursue creative nonfiction — mostly memoirs — but I’ve had a friend tell me that my fiction is stronger, so I’d like to be able work on that a bit more and see where it gets me… Maybe do more memoir-styled fiction… We’ll see…

      And Dude. MinD. You write for a living. I’m completely jealous. I don’t have the drive to do journalism.

  • Ah, writing… I seem to have stumbled into the role as a writer, eh!

    I wonder if I should take lessons or attend workshops. Dunno. It seems to come easily enough — what do you learn at such things? Parts of speech? Effective ways of stringing together words to create an effect?

    Good luck though, and I guess I’ll know soon enough if I need to learn how to write, as I’m compiling a portfolio at the moment.

    I only ever did English up until I was 16 tho’, standard high school stuff. I blame my love of words!

    • It comes easy?? …. you need to visit … 😉

      A lot of what I’ll be doing is writing workshops, where I’ll take my pieces, read them, listen to others, and then we all comment and basically sort of help each other out…. Some of the classes will also discuss aspects of editing, publishing and the like… With any art course, it’s more about practice I guess.

  • You have to take classes before one can be considered non-robot? That doesn’t sound quite right…

    • No… it’s the whole “writing comes easy” thing that makes you a robot… 😛

  • Dani

    There’s lots of debate about the usefulness of writing workshops…it’s the norm, but it can be a bit grabass, esp. if no one in the group knows what they’re doing. In many ways it’s more about building a community, and finding sounding boards that you trust – a handful of people who can help you revise, revise, revise. The best readers will offer broad suggestions, and allow the writer to find their own solutions for the piece in question.

  • Oh man.
    I’ve been having this protracted conversation (see my MFA v. J-school battle). It’s driving myself crazy.

    Saw your comment on the MFA blog – I would love to know what you think of the Stanford online courses.

    • No problem! The class starts on June 22, I’m sure I’ll be blogging about it. I’m taking the Fiction for Publication course…

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